Now more than ever, employers must be a source of leadership for their teams.
Frequent, clear communication is key, but companies will have to supplement tools like Slack and Zoom to inform, engage and reassure their newly-remote teams. Asynchronous, accessible, and on-demand channels like podcasting can be crucial tools to do so.
Powerhouses like Salesforce, Dell and American Airlines have already embraced internal podcasts as a way to connect with their large workforces. These companies recognize that podcasts are quick to produce and distribute, making them a practical and reliable form of communication. Now, even smaller companies are challenged with uniting dispersed teams.
Here are a few ways employers of any size can use internal podcasting to communicate with their remote staff:
1. Inform employees.
Employees need clarity on expectations and updates to company policies in this quickly changing environment.
A short, daily audio briefing keeps employees informed and connected to leadership. Leaders should be in constant communication with their teams, even if it’s to say: “I don’t know.” Short, frequent dispatches present a valuable opportunity for management to answer employee-submitted questions.
Salesforce prioritizes this kind of constant communication with their global workforce. Of the five internal podcasts they produce, two are dedicated to daily and weekly briefings.
2. Show strong, empathetic leadership.
Meaningful, authentic communication from employers gives remote workers a sense of stability and purpose. It also shows that employers care.
Though a personal email or call is a great way to connect with one employee, communicating one-on-one just isn’t realistic or efficient in a time of crisis. Unlike other forms of media—including video—podcasts are uniquely intimate. Through vocalization, hosts can articulate messages with depth, context and emotion.
According to Futuri Media, NAB and University of Florida’s joint 2019 study, podcast listeners overwhelmingly view their favorite hosts as “reliable”, “authentic”, “truthful”, “genuine” and “real.” That kind of authenticity is tough to convey through all-staff emails.
A podcast can open conversations about what’s happening and encourage employees to contribute to the discussion. American Airlines understood this when they created their internal podcast, “Tell Me Why.” In each episode, leaders offer insights into the “why” behind their decisions.
3. Meet people where they are.
Employees have been thrown into a moment of extreme work/life imbalance and need more flexibility than ever.
They’re grappling with new priorities, schedules, distractions and demands. As this crisis develops, companies are seeking out creative internal communication and team building ideas like video check-ins, group yoga, virtual games and more. But what if you can’t attend that virtual happy hour because your kids need care?
Employers shouldn’t expect that every team member is able to work from nine to five, let alone devote an hour to a non-essential, work-adjacent task. Give your staff a break by offering easily accessible, asynchronous communication that can be consumed while doing the laundry or working out. Podcasts are portable, hands-free, and non-visual, making them the ideal multitasking medium.
In 2019, Edison Research found that 87% of podcast consumers enjoy listening to podcasts precisely because they can do other things at the same time—even work!
4. Engage employees and boost morale.
If organizations want to survive this pandemic and set themselves up to thrive beyond it, they need to implement tools that will boost engagement and morale.
Engagement is even more of a challenge with dispersed teams. A 2017 Harvard Business Review study concluded that when it comes to remote work, “a lack of close contact with people inhibits the formation of trust, connection and mutual purpose.” Internal podcasts are a powerful way to include people in broader conversations and decisions, promote work/life balance, and bring recognition to specific employees, teams and projects.
Trader Joe’s does this well through their popular podcast, “Inside Trader Joe’s,” which is publicly available. The show highlights the work that goes into new products and initiatives by talking to the people responsible (at every level of the company). Employees can even continue their professional development by learning (or teaching) new skills via audio.
One of Salesforce’s podcasts, “Human Element,” teaches staff soft skills and offers career guidance.
5. Take the long view.
Companies are already considering how to handle big picture functions like hiring, onboarding, training and retention while offices remain closed.
Embracing innovative tools and technology is imperative if these processes are to be adapted and streamlined. Though the timeline of this crisis is uncertain, the COVID-19 pandemic demands forward-thinking tactics that facilitate connection within dispersed teams.
Tools that may have once seemed unconventional are now more essential and practical than ever. Employers should be prepared to think about a long-term, sustainable internal communications strategy that includes flexible, affordable solutions like podcasting.
Anna McClain is a podcast producer and consultant in Portland, Oregon.